73. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • US-Soviet Bilateral Issues; MBFR Part III of III


  • US
  • The Secretary
  • Marshall D. Shulman, S/MS
  • USSR
  • Ambassador Anatoliy Dobrynin

Secretary’s Speech: Ambassador Dobrynin commented favorably on the Secretary’s speech in Los Angeles.2 He characterized it as a constructive speech.

PNG Exchange: The Secretary expressed concern that the US and the USSR might be headed toward a serious spiral of actions which could affect our general relationship, and reviewed the steps we would be obliged to take if the Soviets did not reconsider their action against our number three man in the commercial office in Moscow. The Secretary generally followed the talking points (attached)3 and added with some feeling that it was unfortunate that both countries were getting involved in a series of steps which were disturbing. This was childish and would not be conducive to good relations. He said he would like to see us “knock it off.” Relations were too important to have endangered. Dobrynin began his reply by referring to the two cases in Moscow. He said the USSR didn’t want to make a public fuss about it, but they were good cases. At the time of the first one, he was in Moscow and saw the documentations and he also was well informed of the second one. He said that it related to very sensitive matters in the foreign ministry itself [Page 261] and it led directly to the CIA. He then went on to characterize the Avdyunin expulsion as a clear case of fabrication to even the score.4

Dobrynin said that his Minister, Vasev, would be coming in this afternoon to see Marshall Shulman to transmit a note which would: (a) call for Kursch’s immediate departure; (b) protest the provocation against Avdyunin; and (c) point out that our commercial representatives outnumbered theirs if the representatives of private firms were taken into account. The Secretary pointed out that if this note were delivered, there would be no turning back from our retaliatory action against them. Therefore, it was arranged that Vasev would limit himself to an oral communication, and that Dobrynin would recommend to Moscow that action be suspended until next week, by which time he or his representative could review the evidence against their man and judge whether this was, as we maintain, not a fabrication.

Cosmos 954: The Secretary inquired if Dobrynin had received any information from Moscow on this, in response to our query.5 He said that a message had just begun to come in to the Embassy, and that he would telephone the Secretary this afternoon to report on its contents.

MBFR: The Secretary expressed regret that the data exchange had not gone forward during the recent meeting, and urged that it be made the first item of business at the next meeting. He stressed the importance of progress on MBFR.

List of Outstanding Issues: Dobrynin handed the Secretary a list of four questions in the disarmament field to which he is awaiting responses from the US: (a) world treaty on non-use of force in international relations; (b) non-first-use of nuclear weapons by Helsinki participants; (c) world disarmament conference; and (d) an agreement on ban on neutron weapons.

Brezhnev’s Health: In response to the Secretary’s inquiry on this subject, Dobrynin said that Brezhnev had experienced a rather serious bout of the flu, but was now recovered.

  1. Source: Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Special Adviser to the Secretary (S/MS) on Soviet Affairs Marshall Shulman—Jan 21, 77–Jan 19, 81, Lot 81D109, Box 3, CV–Dobrynin, 1/14/78. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Shulman on January 16; approved by Anderson on January 26. The meeting took place in the Department of State. Parts I and II are Documents 71 and 72.
  2. Vance delivered a speech in Los Angeles on January 13; see Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. I, Foundations of Foreign Policy.
  3. Attached but not printed.
  4. Retaliatory diplomatic expulsions were acknowledged on January 19. The United States expelled a member of the Soviet trade mission for improper activities, which in turn led to the expulsion of Donald Kursch, U.S. first secretary in Moscow in retaliation. The United States responded by expelling a Soviet official equal to Kursch’s rank, apparently Avdyunin. (“Retaliatory Ousters of Aides by Soviet and U.S. Disclosed,” The New York Times, January 20, 1978, p. A3)
  5. The response to the U.S. query was provided on January 15. In telegram 11050 to Moscow, the Department indicated that the Soviets had provided information about the projected reentry of Cosmos 954 and their response if the satellite was outside Soviet territory. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840148–1459)